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An Insider's guide to restaurants, wine, spirits and culinary travel

vinotherapy: spa treatments meet culinary travel

We've known for a long time that wine has health benefits when consumed in moderation. But who knew that the external application of wine to the skin could be healthful as well?

Apparently, Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas realized this back in 1993. During the harvest at Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, her family’s estate in Bordeaux, she was chatting with Joseph Vercauteren, a professor of pharmacy. “Do you know that you are throwing away treasures?” asked the professor, as seeds, stems, skins and other grape refuse was discarded by the ton. Vercauteren explained that the leftover grape products were high in antioxidants and helped promote exfoliation.

Two years later the couple launched Caudalie, a line of skin treatments based on grape polyphenols, which in turn gave rise to the trend of vinotherapy.

                  vinotherapy in bordeaux

Les Sources de Caudalie, their initial spa at the vineyards of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, has been augmented by seven other locations around the world: Bilbao, Spain (Marques de Riscal); Lisbon and Porto, Portugal; Toronto; Paris, Istanbul and New York (the Plaza Hotel). Their products are also sold at several dozen company-owned retail outlets (www.caudalie.com).

During a typical day at Les Sources de Caudalie, guests may choose from a smorgasbord of options. You can bathe in a variety of grape skins (the Red Vine Bath, Barrel Bath and Grape Marc Bath), receive a massage with grape-seed and essential oils while indulging in a Vichy shower, experience a variety of facials or receive a traditional manicure and pedicure.The setup provides a perfect solution for couples when the husband is a wine lover and the wife is not. He can visit one of the great estates of Pessac-Leognan and indulge in a vineyard tour and winery tasting, while she luxuriates in the pomace of Grand Cru grapes.

resources: California wine country

Vinotherapy has taken root and flourished in California, and visitors to wine country may also experience this unique blend of spa treaments and culinary travel. Some of the high points include:

Auberge du Soleil, Napa: Offers numerous treatments with grape seed exfoliation.

The Carneros Inn, Napa: Grape-based massages, body treatments and facials.

Spa Terra at The Meritage Resort, Napa: Grape seed facials, body treatments and more.

Greenhaus Day Spa, Napa (downtown): Full body exfoliation and wrap.

Kenwood Inn and Spa in Sonoma: Guests can bathe in chardonnay, pinot noir or sparkling wine (sooner or later, we knew they’d figure out a use for California sparkling wine).

Hotel Healdsburg, Sonoma:At harvest time, the spa partners with a local winery to offer a complete "Wine to the Spa" line of treatments.

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